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Subject: Top 10? It very well may be. rss

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Chris Rush
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NB: If you plan on typing up a session report on Panzergruppe Guderian, don’t begin by spilling ginger ale onto your laptop computer. Just a free tip from a man who knows.

I’ve wanted to play this game for a long time, mainly because of its reputation as a well-written game, not because I have a special penchant for the Eastern front of WW2. My dad and I played Cobra a few months ago over e-mail, not knowing it was part of the PGG system/family (especially since Cobra does not have untried units – which made it ideal for e-mail play). I liked Cobra, and not just because I won, in part because it had a few more game elements than some of the simpler games (such as Blue & Gray) we have been playing more often. PGG possibly could work over e-mail, if the German just played with the Russian units face up (merely as place markers), waiting for the Russian player to identify which units they are really, though that would take a fair amount of lag time between communications.

My dad and I had just finished up our long-delayed B+G 2 game of Chattanooga, and we were going to start Here I Stand with my brother later in the week, so we didn’t have a lot of time, though we did want to try to get another game in. Fortunately, he had purchased PGG for me a year earlier (I know, shame on me for owning it for an entire year before playing it), and knowing its rules were the best, we tackled it. Apparently my dad had played it (30-some years earlier), so he was slightly familiar with it. With the time crunch, I didn’t read all the rules (as the German player, I skipped the Russian-only bits), but the rules are indeed expertly written. Enough overlap exists to aid memory/acquisition without blundering into irritating redundancy. Yes, a few errata exist (which we probably should have checked out before turn 8 or so), and while some of them are fairly important (if the German wants to deploy all his forces), they do not detract from the precision of the rules.

Though I have played a couple of games with the “overrun” maneuver, I still don’t have the hang of it (or see the point, since it means “attacking” at half strength or ¼ with divisional integrity), and I didn’t use it until the last couple of turns when I knew the defense strength of some straggling Russian units here and there. The Russians, facing mostly divisional-integrity-doubled defense values, seem to have very little incentive to try overruns. The Germans, having the benefit of a second motorized movement phase, can probably achieve many of their objectives without overruns or advancing after combat into Russian zones of control, unless the Russians get fairly fortunate with their random defense units (as my dad mostly did). Similarly, the air interdiction didn’t do much for us – probably because we played a bit fast and loose with the Russian rail movement restrictions, and I just moved around his one marker.

It took me a few turns to more effectively use the second motorized movement phase, so it took me probably too long to get Smolensk. The optional attack rule was quite helpful, though the “you don’t have to use the entire stack to attack” rule didn’t seem much helpful to me, since divisional integrity bonuses don’t come along with divided attacks. After taking Orsha and Mogilev (and forgetting to pass through Vitebsk until later, losing some momentum having to send some units back for it), I made my Smolensk assault. It took several turns, since the Russians had a rather strong defense group around it, but thanks to the rules, I was able to finally push the Russians back and get enough breathing room to the south to move more units in place for a defensive posture. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to do that.

Around this time, I checked the victory conditions and realized I was still losing, despite having taken Smolensk. Apparently the “Battle of Smolensk” means “move past Smolensk as fast as possible and conquer out to the east.” As you know, the only way to get all the victory points is to control all the cities and the exit hexes. It’s a nice touch the German player doesn’t get any points for eliminating Russian units, but even with the second motorized movement phase, I doubt there’s any way the German can control every single hex and city. Also, unless the Germans get totally outflanked, there doesn’t seem to be much use for all the steps of the infantry units. It takes them so long to get to the field of play that unless the Russians have held back and keep hammering at the western edge reinforcements (maybe that’s what they are supposed to do), the German player probably will just retreat with his infantry instead of take step losses. Maybe the Russians aren’t supposed to give up the western edge as quickly as my dad did. In any event, my infantry didn’t do much and I still haven’t even punched out the additional steps for them.

I wasted a few turns setting up an unnecessary southern defensive perimeter below Smolensk. I should have used those panzers to sweep into Roslavl much sooner than I did (it was for this maneuver I finally exercised some overruns, since the Russians didn’t need to defend it all that much). Now I know. Having finally checked the victory conditions, and getting my infantry in place to do some more defense of Smolensk, I pushed over to Yel’nya and temporarily held a marginal victory. With time running out, I calculated I could barely make it Rzhev, just to be safe. My dad calculated if he rolled a “5” on his reinforcement roll, he could easily use the railroad to retake Roslavl (since I forgot to leave units in there). I backtracked once again.

On the last turn, my dad forgot about the second German motorized movement phase and left Vyazma accessible. I ignored any combat and moved one lone motorized unit around the Russian line and into the town, securing a strategic German victory, but only in the most tenuous “the magic of moving last on the last turn” sense. From overhead, the field looked like a giant fermata (or eagle eye, for those less musically inclined).

It’s true. This is a great game. It has a fine number of moving parts that give it a high-level of replayability (especially the untried units), all of which are fairly easy to assimilate by the second playing thanks to the superb rules and the all-star design team (Dunnigan, Simonsen, Berg, Milkuhn, Catalano, Zucker, and Mosca!). I’m glad I got it; I’m glad I finally played it, especially with my dad. This will probably frequent my table semi-regularly.
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alan beaumont
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Attack at leisure - repent in haste
Uncas007 wrote:
Though I have played a couple of games with the “overrun” maneuver, I still don’t have the hang of it (or see the point, since it means “attacking” at half strength or ¼ with divisional integrity), and I didn’t use it until the last couple of turns when I knew the defense strength of some straggling Russian units here and there.
Because a half decent soviet defence, given time to form up, will stop you short in the red sea before Smolensk.
Unless there has been a recent rewriting of the ZOC rules there can be a tendency for the German armour to get 'stuck' on the Russian line, unless it can overrun itself free.

If the Russians defend well you will also see the German infantry get into action.

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Chris Rush
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Oh. That makes sense. We sort of figured the Russians were supposed to hold the line on the west edge a bit longer than they did. Though, most of my dad's stronger units ended up coming into the game late, and their early defense was somewhat easily eliminated.

Perhaps we took too many retreats instead of step losses. With the Russians retreating, I was easily out of their ZOCs.

Thanks for the good tips.
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alan beaumont
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Trees company
Uncas007 wrote:
Thanks for the good tips.
Thank you. Stacked Russians in woods usually have some staying power, even out of supply they buy time.

I'm pretty sure there must be on line versions of the 'Egg' defence articles from Moves magazine, which give the general picture on how to survive the early onslaught. Personally I preferred not to let the defence get pocketed at all.
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